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board anxiously waited for the fury of the gale; for there were none so ignorant or inexperienced in that gallant frigate as not to know that they as yet only felt the infant efforts of the winds. Each moment, however, it increased in power, though so gradual was the alteration, that the relieved mariners began to believe that all their gloomy forebodings were not to be realised. During this short interval of uncertainty, no other sounds were heard than the whistling of the breeze, as it passed quickly through the mass of rigging that belonged to the vessel, and the dashing of the spray that began to fly from her bows like the foam of a cataract.
"It blows fresh,” cried Griffith, who was the first to speak in that moment of doubt and anxiety; "but it is no more than a cap-full of wind, after all. Give us elbow room and the right canvas, Mr. Pilot, and I'll handle the ship like a gentleman's yacht in this breeze."
Will she stay, think ye, under this sail?" said the low voice of the stranger.
"She will do all that man in reason can ask of wood and iron," returned the lieutenant; "but the vessel don't float the ocean that will tack under double-reefed topsails alone against a heavy sea. Help her with the courses, pilot, and you'll see her come round like a dancing master."
'Let us feel the strength of the gale first," returned the man who was called Mr. Gray, moving from the side of Griffith to the weather gangway of the vessel, where he stood in silence, looking ahead of the ship with an air of singular coolness and abstraction.
All the lanterns had been extinguished on the deck of the frigate when her anchor was secured, and as the first mist of the gale had passed over, it was succeeded by a faint light that was a good deal aided by the glittering foam of the waters, which now broke in white curls around the vessel in every direction. The land could be faintly discerned, rising like a heavy bank of black fog above the margin of the waters, and was only distinguishable from the heavens by its deeper gloom and obscurity. The last rope was coiled and deposited in its proper place by the seamen, and for several minutes the stillness of death pervaded the crowded decks. It was evident to every one that their ship was dashing at a prodigious rate through the waves; and, as she was approaching, with such velocity, the quarter of the bay where the shoals and dangers were known to be situated, nothing but
the habits of the most exact discipline could suppress the uneasiness of the officers and men within their own bosoms. At length the voice of Captain Munson was heard calling to the pilot.
Shall I send a hand into the chains, Mr. Gray," he said,.“ and try our water?"
"Tack your ship, sir, tack your ship; I would see how she works before we reach the point where she must behave well, or we perish."
Griffith gazed after him in wonder, while the pilot slowly paced the quarter-deck, and then, rousing from his trance, gave forth the cheering order that called each man to his station to perform the desired evolution. The confident assurances which the young officer had given to the pilot respecting the qualities of his vessel, and his own. ability to manage her, were fully realised by the result. The helm was no sooner put a lee, than the huge ship bore up gallantly against the wind, and, dashing directly through the waves, threw the foam high into the air as she looked boldly into the very eye of the wind, and then, yielding gracefully to its power, she fell off on the other tack with her head pointed from those dangerous shoals that she had so recently approached with such terrifying velocity. The heavy yards swung round as if they had been vanes to indicate the currents of the air, and, in a few moments, the frigate again moved with stately progress through the water, leaving the rocks and shoals behind her on one side of the bay, but advancing toward those that offered equal danger on the other.
During this time the sea was becoming more agitated, and the violence of the wind was gradually increasing. The latter no longer whistled amid the cordage of the vessel, but it seemed to howl surlily as it passed the complicated machinery that the frigate obtruded on its path. An endless succession of white surges rose above the heavy billows, and the very air was glittering with the light that was disen gaged from the ocean. The ship yielded each moment more and more before the storm, and, in less than half an hour from the time that she had lifted her anchor, she was driven along with tremendous fury by the full power of a gale of wind. Still the hardy and experienced mariners who directed her movements held her to the course that was necessary to their preservation, and still Griffith gave forth, when directed by their unknown pilot, those orders that turned her in the narrow channel where safety was alone to be found.
So far the performance of his duty appeared easy to the stranger, and he gave the required directions in those still calm tones that formed so remarkable a contrast to the responsibility of his situation. But when, the land was becoming dim, in distance as well as darkness, and the agitated sea was only to be discovered as it swept by them in foam, he broke in upon the monotonous roaring of the tempest with the sounds of his voice, seeming to shake off his apathy and rouse himself to the occasion.
"Now is the time to watch her closely, Mr. Griffith," he cried; "here we get the true tide and the real danger. Place the best quarter-master of your ship in those chains, and let an officer stand by him and see that he gives us the right water."
"I will take that office on myself," said the captain; "pass a light into the weather main-chains."
"Stand by your braces!" exclaimed the pilot with startling quickness. "Heave away that lead!"
These preparations taught the crew to expect the crisis, and every officer and man stood in fearful silence, at his assigned station, awaiting the issue of the trial. Even the quarter-master at the con gave out his orders to the men at the wheel in deeper and hoarser tones than usual, as if anxious not to disturb the quiet and order of the vessel.
While this deep expectation pervaded the frigate, the piercing cry of the leadsman, as he called, "By the mark seven!" rose above the tempest, crossed over the decks, and appeared to pass away to leeward, borne on the blast like the warnings of some water spirit.
""Tis well," returned the pilot, calmly; "try it again."
The short pause was succeeded by another cry, "And a half-five!" "She shoals! she shoals!" exclaimed Griffith; "keep her a good full."
"Ay, you must hold the vessel in command, now," said the pilot, with those cool tones that are most appalling in critical moments, because they seem to denote most preparation and care.
The third call of "By the deep four!" was followed by a prompt direction from the stranger to tack.
Griffith seemed to emulate the coolness of the pilot, in issuing the necessary orders to execute their manœuvre.
The vessel rose slowly from the inclined position into which she had
been forced by the tempest, and the sails were shaking violently, as if to release themselves from their confinement, while the ship stemmed the billows, when the well-known voice of the sailing-master was heard shouting from the forecastle" Breakers, breakers, dead ahead!"
This appalling sound seemed yet to be lingering about the ship, when a second voice cried" Breakers on our lee-bow!"
'We are in a bight of the shoals, Mr. Gray," said the commander. "She loses her way; perhaps an anchor might hold her."
"Clear away that best-bower!" shouted Griffith, through his trumpet. "Hold on!" cried the pilot, in a voice that reached the very hearts of all who heard him; "hold on every thing."
The young man turned fiercely to the daring stranger who thus defied the discipline of his vessel, and at once demanded—“ Who is it that dares to countermand my orders?—is it not enough that you run the ship into danger, but you must interfere to keep her there? If another word
"Peace, Mr. Griffith," interrupted the captain, bending from the rigging, his grey locks blowing about in the wind, and adding a look of wildness to the haggard care that he exhibited by the light of his lantern; "yield the trumpet to Mr. Gray; he alone can save us."
Griffith threw his speaking trumpet on the deck, and, as he walked proudly away, muttered in bitterness of feeling-"Then all is lost indeed, and, among the rest, the foolish hopes with which I visited this coast."
There was, however, no time for reply; the ship had been rapidly running into the wind, and, as the efforts of the crew were paralysed by the contradictory orders they had heard, she gradually lost her way, and in a few seconds all her sails were taken aback.
Before the crew understood their situation the pilot had applied the trumpet to his mouth, and, in a voice that rose above the tempest, he thundered forth his orders. Each command was given distinctly, and with a precision that showed him to be master of his profession. The helm was kept fast, the head yards swung up heavily against the wind, and the vessel was soon whirling round on her keel with a retrograde movement.
Griffith was too much of a seaman not to perceive that the pilot had seized, with a perception almost intuitive, the only method that promised to extricate the vessel from her situation. He was young,
impetuous, and proud; but he was also generous. Forgetting his resentment and his mortification, he rushed forward among the men, and, by his presence and example, added certainty to the experiment. The ship fell off slowly before the gale, and bowed her yards nearly to the water, as she felt the blast pouring its fury on her broadside, while the surly waves beat violently against her stern, as if in reproach at departing from her usual manner of moving.
The voice of the pilot, however, was still heard, steady and calm, and yet so clear and high as to reach every ear; and the obedient seamen whirled the yards at his bidding in despite of the tempest, as if they handled the toys of their childhood. When the ship had fallen off dead before the wind, her head sails were shaken, her after-yards trimmed, and her helm shifted before she had time to run upon the danger that had threatened, as well to leeward as to windward. The beautiful fabric, obedient to her government, threw her bows up gracefully toward the wind again, and, as her sails were trimmed, moved out from amongst the dangerous shoals in which she had been embayed, as steadily and swiftly as she had approached them.
A moment of breathless astonishment succeeded the accomplishment of this nice manœuvre, but there was no time for the usual expressions of surprise. The stranger still held the trumpet, and continued to lift his voice amid the howlings of the blast, whenever prudence or skill directed any change in the management of the ship. For an hour longer there was a fearful struggle for their preservation, the channel becoming at each step more complicated, and the shoals thickening around the mariners on every side. The lead was cast rapidly, and the quick eye of the pilot seemed to pierce the darkness with a keenness of vision that exceeded human power. It was apparent to all in the vessel, that they were under the guidance of one who understood the navigation thoroughly, and their exertions kept pace with their reviving confidence. Again and again the frigate appeared to be rushing blindly on shoals, where the sea was covered with foam, and where destruction would have been as sudden as it was certain, when the clear voice of the stranger was heard warning them of the danger, and inciting them to their duty. The vessel was implicitly yielded to his government, and during those anxious moments, when she was dashing the waters aside, throwing the spray over her enormous yards, each ear would listen eagerly for those